How to Make a Paper Bag

How to Make a Paper Bag

Paper bags are all the rage at the moment. With bans on plastic and zero-waste mentality taking over, this easy DIY trick can contribute to reducing your plastic footprint.

If you're crafty as well as keen on conserving resources, you can learn some techniques to fold used wrapping paper or other recyclables into a one-of-a-kind gift bag. That's right. We're going to learn how to make a bag with paper.

How to Fold a Paper Bag

Want to give your friend or family a new gift but don't want to use a boring brown bag? You might question what alternatives there are to buying a bag from the store.

Try reusing, recycling and redesigning with resources that you already have laying around in the house. There aren't many steps in the process, and we'll try anticipating each question you might have about it below.

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Bag Styling

Where to start? You can fold all sorts of bags! You'd be quite amazed at how many different DIY paper bags you can find posted on Pinterest. People really have an imagination!

There are paper bags with illustrated cats and dogs; there are paper bags with additional material that is cut, shaped, and stuck onto the bag to create a 3D pop-out flower.

You can add stickers, buttons, ribbon (try brown velvet ribbon on brown Kraft paper to fold a rustic, yet elegant paper bag). If you know how to fold origami squares, even if all you have lying around is brown Kraft paper, you could fold a truly bespoke decorative paper bag.

The sky's the limit. 

Do you need a brown paper bag that is a little more sturdy, one that is decadently decorative for a gift? In just a few steps, this project can result in a gift bag that looks just like one that you buy in the store.

It can be a jaw-dropping work of art, or just a fun activity for kids or anyone else who loves crafts.

A stack of old magazines piling up? Are you throwing away newspapers every day? Wrapping paper from birthdays and holidays? Do you have an old large gift bag that has a small tear in it?

Get all of that stuff together and brainstorm which type of bag you will create. 
All you need is to grab some materials, make room on your table, and let your artistic mind run wild. We'll walk you through it, step by step.

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Paper Selection

There are, of course, many beautiful papers that you can purchase at crafts stores. The purpose of this project is to upcycle paper and resources you have lying around.

Resist the urge to buy new, and look around to see what kind of materials you have available to fold a paper bag with.

If you are a magazine junkie, you might try using your favorite publication to create a one-of-a-kind paper bag gift. Magazine and wrapping paper can be quite sturdy and colorful at the same time.

A printed newspaper might be going the way of the dodo, but it hasn't died yet. Upcycled newspaper creates that vintage, 30's look, and makes excellent use of resources that you might have lying around.

If you don't have your own newspaper subscription, trying asking neighbors or friends if they have old newspapers to share, paper sales flyers from grocery or other stores are also free and could make a great alternative gift bag.

Are you musical? Take note: There's no question that old sheet music makes a perfect bag to share with that musical friend.

Tape some extra layers of the material together to make your bag thicker and durable.

For a more striking look, cut out letters or titles from magazines and newspapers and write out your very own note or question to share with the world.

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Making the Bag

We've got text instructions, but we realize that most people prefer videos, so thanks to Origamite's channel for these easy to follow instructions. Be sure to subscribe if you like their video.

Step 1

Start by tracing out a rectangle with a pencil on your material of choice (wrapping paper is an excellent option to learn on).

The rectangle should be double the width as you want your finished bag to be and 10 cm taller. Cut along the lines you drew. Turn the paper over so the side you wish to as the outer side is facing down. 

Fold 5 cm (2 inches) over at the top edge and smooth the crease down with something substantial like the handle of the scissors. Keep the fold in place by gluing it together or tape it down. 
This section will be the bottom of your bag.

Step 2

Place a rectangular box in the center of your piece - about 5 cm away from the glued fold. Imagine you are wrapping the box as a gift. 

You want the paper to be the same length on the right and left sides of the box. Bring the sides of the paper together in the middle, crease each fold and glue them together.

Remember, the box itself needs to slip out afterward, so don't wrap the sides too tight. Keep it nice and loose, but well stuck together.

Step 3

Now continue "fake wrapping" the box by wrapping the paper at the base and leaving the other side open. 

Wrap the bottom, by taking our original fold from Step 1, bring it close to the other side and stick them together at the creases. 

Before moving on to the next step, you may also want to add some tape to each corner to reinforce it. Now the bottom is secure, and you can remove the box from your almost-completed paper bag (brown or otherwise).

Step 4

All that is left now are the handles of your gift bag! You can use handles from an old bag, or add a thick thread or some ribbon. 

Attach them to your gift bag with some glue and extra tape for ensured support.

Note: As with all crafts, there are many ways to add your own touch. There are also other methods to fold gift bags, including methods that make a different sort of corner. This tutorial, complete with pictures, shows how to fold each corner a different way.

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Et Voilá! Your Bag is Ready!

In some cultures, the way you present a gift is part of the ritual. The packaging is just as important as what is inside. Make your next gift extra special by taking on the challenge.

With these DIY bags, you can tailor the design, add a personal touch or a note, and show how much you care by taking the time to sit, relax, and create. It can be really satisfying!

Now that you know how to fold a bag from wrapping paper, you see how addictive it is (in addition to being eco-friendly, of course!). You can do it by yourself in the corner, or with friends or with family.

You could even scare your new skill at a bag project party. You will get so good at it that people will ask you to share where you got your paper bag from! It will be so satisfying to answer that question with the words "I made it."

Now that you know how to make paper bags, you will always have a project that you can do to impress your friends. No longer will you be stuck using a brown paper bag if you don't want to.

And if you have gone crafts crazy and can't add a single paper bag for gift presentation to your collection, but you have brown paper bags lying around that you don't know what to do with, check out this post for nine ideas on how to reuse brown paper bags.

Feel free to share with your friends and add any additional ideas you may have come up with.

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Sara Phillipps
A vegan freelance web designer and blog writer based out of Austin, Texas USA.

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